Breaking: Third-Party Twitter-Apps in June

Once again Twitter is about to do what we’ve come to expect from the company. From Apps of a Feather:

Third-party apps open a network connection to Twitter and receive a continuous stream of updates (hence the name). For push notifications, this connection is done on the developer’s server and used to generate messages that are sent to your devices. For timeline updates, the stream is opened directly on your mobile device or desktop computer.

This streaming connection is being replaced by an Account Activity API. This new infrastructure is based on “webhooks” that Twitter uses to contact your server when there’s activity for an account. But there are problems for app developers…

This change, currently poised to happen after June 19th, 2018, means two main things: push notifications will no longer arrive and timelines won’t refresh automatically anymore. Currently there’s no way for third-party developers to fix these things. Twitter has yet to give third-party developers access to the new Account Activity API. But even if they should get access in time to fix their applications, things like push notifications will be inherently limited, essentially rendering them useless:

With access we might be able to implement some push notifications, but they would be limited at the standard level to 35 Twitter accounts – our products must deliver notifications to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Using iCloud.com to upload your photos – or why you really shouldn’t even try

I recently found myself in a situation where I had to use iCloud.com to upload photos (and video, but more on that later). I had to use the website, because it wasn’t my data and the person only had a very old Windows PC and no Mac. I figured the iCloud website would be a perfectly viable way to get those files (only around 10 GB in total) into the cloud to be accessible on an iPhone and iPad.

I started my process on the PC (yes, it’s running Windows Vista 🤷‍♂️), trying to use the iCloud application that supposedly allows for automatic upload from a pre-defined if you so choose. That didn’t work once, even for the smallest of JPGs, which may or not be because of the age of said PC and numerous other possible reasons. Also: Debugging something like this on a Windows machine that takes 30+ seconds to open an Explorer window isn’t very high on my „Favorite Things To Do”-list.

After that path was a dead end and I couldn’t (read: didn’t want to) diagnose why, I tried using Chrome and Internet Explorer which gave me repeated errors while trying to upload more than a few files at once. After all it might also be related to Windows, Chrome or IE or any mix of these.

I even tried to copy the files to an SD card and use the Lightning to SD card adapter to re-import photos to the iPhone and iCloud Photos. Just copying files on to the card wasn’t – as I expected – enough. I probably had to create the whole folder structure to make it appear like the files just came from a camera. But that way I wouldn’t get albums or at least make it very hard to recreate them.

So I went to copy the files to a thumb drive, which took ~30 minutes for 10 GB to an otherwise very fast USB stick. After that I copied them to an older 2013 MacBook Pro, only to find out iCloud.com really is a really horrible way to get anything done. The same errors persisted, although not as permanent – sometimes I could get 20 or 30 photos to upload at a time before it would error out. Other times it would just silently fail and while the browser pretended it was still chugging along. It’s not a matter of upload speed, I can get a solid upload of 20+ Mbit/s out of this line.

Also note that the website states that you can add photos and videos. However if you try to upload anything else than a JPG file, it will give you an error. Videos taken with an iOS device fail as well as screenshots created on an iPhone or iPad. I’m not yet sure how I’ll get those files into Photos on the iPhone, I might upload them to iCloud Drive and see if I can add them from there to Photos on the device itself.

My very last resort would be adding a new user to my Mac and use Photos to eventually get everything uploaded. This would mean however adding someone else’s account to my Mac which I’m not sure I – or the other person – feel comfortable with.

This whole process goes to show that moving from a world of Macs or PCs to just iOS devices is still a giant pain. iCloud.com is just horrible. If this was a website managed by Google or Dropbox, I expect completely different results. It would just work. Uploading files to the internet doesn’t require some black magic. It’s just feels painful if a company like Apple isn’t capable to make it work.

Apple could give its Files.app the ability to read thumb drives or – heck – SD cards that didn’t come straight from a camera. Instead, you have to jump through hoops in this brave new „Post-PC world”.

iOS, Bluetooth and car related features

iOS has had various features that relate to using iPhones in cars, like reminders that can trigger when entering or exiting your car. This arrived with iOS 9. Since iOS 10 there are also parking spot reminders to help you find your car. In September, iOS 11 brought you the ability to automatically turn on Do Not Disturb mode on your phone.

The problem with these is: they only work with car stereos that announce themselves as such. If you only have a simple Bluetooth kit that connects to the car via the 3,5 mm AUX input and to the phone via bluetooth, iOS most likely won’t highlight these features.

I’ve personally tried the iClever Himbox HB01* and more recently Anker’s SoundSync Drive*. Both appear to the phone as simple headsets, not a car. As such all of the mentioned features above won’t be surfaced and aren’t accessible to you. I’ve tried contacting iClever and Anker and neither of them actually understood the issue. I haven’t checked again since iOS 11 was released, although I have little hope they actually care.

I understand that Apple tries to cleverly detect if you’re moving around in a car. Android on the other hand for example offers parking reminders even if you don’t connect to any device at all – which may lead to unexpected results, showing you parked at a place even though you arrived at the location with a train or some other means of transportation.

I wish manufacturers like Anker would look into this and work with Apple to support the proper profiles so iOS can detect my car as what it is: a car and thus let me use all the fancy features without having to spend money on a whole new stereo setup – which might be an issue depending on your car and its integration of the radio (Mini, I’m looking at you!). Maybe it’s finally time to invest into a third party CarPlay device though.

About wireless charging with the iPhones 8 and other devices

Ben Bajarin has some valid points regarding wireless charging, which is a new thing for the iPhone world. As he Ben notes, the same issue is valid for Android as well.

The problem in a nutshell is that you really have to be careful how to put down and place your device on the wireless charger. I remember having the optional magnetic charging dingus for my Nexus 4 and also back then you had to be careful to hit the exact right spot and actively watch for the charging notification. Sometimes it would slightly slip while attached to the dock and stop charging. You usually wouldn’t notice.

The same is true today, for example when going to a Starbucks that has the wireless chargers integrated into their tables while handing out little adapters to plug into your iPhone or other devices. You have to meticulously put your device down and once again wait for the charging buzz or whatever your device does to tell you it’s charging.

It’s a horrible user experience at this point. It requires you to carefully align your phone and then it’s not necessarily as fast as using a simple cable. Ben notes that the alignment issue might get better when Apple’s own AirPower device ships next year but that remains to be seen. For now, just give me a cable to plug in.

Tim Cook visits Cincinnati

Tim Cook today went to CTS in Cincinnati and posted a photo of himself at the factory:

Of course the internet did what it does best:

Peak iPhone Rumor? Achievement unlocked.

iOS 11 beta 5 changes blue “Bar of Shame”

RIP Bar of Shame (iOS 11 Beta 1 – Beta 4)

With today’s fifth iOS 11 beta Apple has changed the behaviour of the blue bar that showed up whenever an app was accessing your location in the background. This made it obvious to users that some apps might be doing nefarious things in the background without them previously knowing about it. But apparently Apple didn’t like the blue bar and changed the way it works.

The developers can now decide whether or not they want to show the bar or not (if the app is in AlwaysInUse mode), negating the effect the previous impelementation had: telling users about potentially bad developers. Apps that have WhenInUse enabled will still show blue bar, which is helpful for navigation apps, because it gives easy access back to the app when you switch apps.

It’s currently not clear as to why Apple moved back from the previous four beta releases. One theory is that developers don’t test enough with the blue bar showing and breaking the app layout in the process if the bar is pushing down the content. At the same time there were some other issues with the bar showing, like removing quick access to the top of a document, list view or website.

This blue shame bar aside iOS 11 brings a few nice additions to the location privacy. Up until iOS 10 apps could optionally support the WhenInUse flag to access a users location. Starting with iOS 11 devs have to support all three settings: Off, When In Use and Always. It’s no longer just black or white for developers that didn’t want to support WhenInUse. (I’m looking at you, Uber.) Users now have a better option at their disposal to block apps’ access to their location.

HomePod firmware: The things we know about Apples upcoming hard- and software so far

On July 27th, 2017 Apple erroneously released an OTA update for AudioAccessory1,1 – aka Apple HomePod. Developers like Steve Troughton-Smith, Guilherme Rambo or Avery Magnotti immediately dug into the firmware and soon thereafter found the first details Apple certainly didn’t want to be out in the open yet. Here’s a summary we know thanks to Apple and these developers:

I’m sure there are more details (I’ll try to add new ones them as they appear) but these are some of the most interesting ones.

iPhone 8: Embrace the notch

There’ve been numerous iPhone 8 – or iPhone Pro or whatever you want to call it – leaks surrounding the recent release of the HomePod firmware. Now user interface designer Max Rudberg went ahed and created some mockups giving us some ideas how the upcoming iPhone UI could look like (current iPhone for comparison on the left):

Image: Max Rudberg

Given the leaked iPhone 8 glyph that shows the device and a distinct notch, I’d say Apple will embrace it (image 2 on the mockup). That said maybe it’ll change based on usage especially given a black OLED screen requires the least amount of power and the black looks actually black.